It's no secret that last year’s freshman class of forwards Michael Young and Jamel Artis, along with point guard Josh Newkirk, has given fans a lot to look forward to this upcoming season. While Artis and Newkirk demonstrated their vast potential, and inexperience, on more than a few occasions, Young was relatively consistent on both ends of the floor.
For starters, Young was comfortable playing in the post on both ends of the floor as a true freshman. I thought his post defense, particularly his ability to hold his position, was definitely advanced for his age. He wasn't tremendously predisposed to picking up a lot of early fouls, either. While he wasn't immune to them, his average of 1.8 fouls per game per game was an impressive figure; granted, he only played 21.6 minutes per contest.
His season averages of 6.0 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game don't jump off the page. His free throw percentage was a very solid 81.7% on 82 attempts from the line; which broke out to 2.3 attempts per contest.
Given that Young was a freshman, it stands to reason that he'll make improvements across the board. Personally, I'd like to see him start with rebounding. Young's two best rebounding games, in terms of total boards, were in the first two games of the season; he hauled in eight against Savannah State followed by nine against Fresno State. However, he recorded 0 rebounds in 27 minutes against Virginia Tech, and averaged just 2.4 rebounds per game once the ACC Tournament started.
Obviously, Young wore down a little bit as the season progressed; that's not uncommon for a true freshmen. The good news is that I never felt Young was woefully out of position on a consistent basis. He did a reasonably good job of boxing out his man and went to the rim when a shot went up if he was outside the paint.
What Young needs to work on is tracking the ball a little bit better coming off the rim/glass. He isn't an extreme athlete, so his improvement in this area should net him more rebounds. He'll also benefit by learning to time his jump better and not relying on just keeping his man off the glass.
The second thing he'll need to improve on is his shooting efficiency. No matter who you are, 41.3% from the field isn't going to cut it. Especially, when you factor in that Young is a post player, despite only taking 40.7% of his attempts at the rim. He really got hung up by connecting on only 33.8% of his two-pointer jumpers, which is where he took a majority of his shots. If 42.5% of your attempts are two-pointers, you need to convert at a much higher percentage.
For a guy that only took 4.6 attempts per game, taking smart shots is important. I don't think Young has poor shot selection, but he settled from time-to-time. If he catches the ball 12 feet away from the basket, it might benefit him to try and back his man down to work his way closer to the rim.
Now, I know everyone is excited with the prospect of Young developing a consistent three-pointer. Through the first 18 games last season, Young only attempted 11 triples and connected on just three. On the flip side, he converted seven of his next 17 long distance attempts. I am glad that wasn't something he forced early on and allowed himself to get more comfortable as the season progressed. Still, as I outlined above, he is going to need to rebound a lot more this upcoming season, and I'd prefer to see him around the rim more than on the perimeter.
Lastly, it's important for Young to take a step forward in the pick-and-roll department. Young did an adequate job of setting picks as a freshman. I'd like to see him reset picks if the ball handler doesn't use it immediately as it allows the defender to go over or under a lot easier without a readjustment. Also, he'll need to roll a little harder, open in the correct direction, and be able to finish upon receiving the pass - easier said than done.
The Pro-Am is the perfect setting for Young to expand his offensive game. Time in the weight room and film study will help with the rebounding, especially since Dixon makes that a point of emphasis. Come the 23rd, I hope Young is taking an ample amount of shots from a variety of spots on the court, particularly out of pick-and-roll situations and finishing around the basket more consistently.
- Stats courtesy of Hoops-Math.